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Archive for the ‘overhead lifting’ Category

Building a Big Overhead Press – What’s Been Working for Me

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Improving Overhead Press


There’s no question about it, Overhead Lifting is without a doubt my favorite form of lifting to test general body strength. I don’t know why that is, but I just plain enjoy picking something up overhead, whether it’s a barbell, log, axle, or whatever is just lying around!

I’ve been working on hitting a new all-time PR on my Overhead Press – 225lbs for 4 consecutive reps – for the last several months. I’ve done 3 reps a couple different times, but the 4th rep always escapes me.

Last week, I was finally able to hit it. The video below is of 225lbs for 4 consecutive repetitions.

Overhead Press All-Time PR – 225×4

This truly came out of nowhere, as my Press workouts haven’t been too extraordinary lately, but here are a few points that might have had something to do with it.

How I’ve Increased My Press

I’ve really backed down on the volume: For several months, I was hitting my 25-rep “program.” I picked one specific weight and tried to reach 25 total reps as quickly as possible, with the weight varying from 185lbs to 215lbs. That approach worked great for a while, but I think this level of intensity caught up with me and I needed a change, so I dropped it down to either 3 or 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps. One difference was I started focusing on pressing the weight up as fast as possible, no matter what the weight was.

Modified My Ramp-up Approach to Working Set Weights: I normally hit a couple sets of barbell only, then a set of 95lbs, and then a set of 135lbs for my warm-up sets. Then, I would usually go right to my working sets. I found that the jump from 135lbs to 185lbs, or whatever the weight might have been that day, has been too much recently. So I started doing intermediate sets of 3 at 155lbs and 175bs instead. This has made a big difference in reducing missed first-reps on my initial work sets.

I’ve re-incorporated speed work: I’ve been trying to stick with 1 workout every 4 to 6 weeks where I stick with lighter bar weights and press against band tension, very similar to the methods used by powerlifters on lifts such as the Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift. I’m been feeling much more powerful on my presses, especially last week when I got my new PR, since focusing more on speed.

Dead Stop Training: I was finding that I was relying too much on stretch reflex in my press training, so I was really letting the bar crash down hard and then pressing back up. I decided to allow the barbell to settle at the bottom position a bit more the last few weeks, which made my presses harder, but I felt I was developing more pure strength. You can see in the video, that I went from a dead-stop on rep #2. I didn’t mean to do that, but I guess I’m just used to doing it now.

These are just a few changes I’ve made recently to my approach to pressing. They seem to have paid off, as a whole.

I’ll also mention that I took this weekend off from any training (I was away camping), and my left shoulder which has been giving me trouble for several months feels much better. I hope it continues to improve, and maybe I will see 225lbs go up for a set of 5 reps soon!

All the best in your training.


Yoketober is Coming Soon – Will You Be Ready?

Overhead Pressing WITHOUT Back Pain: Here’s How

Monday, January 13th, 2014

How to Overhead Press WITHOUT Lower Back Pain

Back Pain SUCKS, brother.

I know – I’ve lived with it off and on since I was a Freshman in High School.

I can go weeks and months with no issues at all, and then all of a sudden, WHAM, my back goes out and I’m either out of the gym for a week or two, or every single lift I do is affected.

Know what I mean?

My most recent Back Tweak happened when I was grabbing a pair of 45-lb plates to move them.

TINK! Something went in my back and I haven’t been able to Overhead Press without pain in about 2 weeks.

Which drives me bonkers because I love to work shoulders hard and LOVE Overhead Pressing.

In fact, the Rack Press has become a staple of my training for over 2 years now, but I just haven’t been able to do it without pain in my back the last couple of Shoulder Workouts, so I needed to switch things up.

I also know that they advise NOT to do Seated Press movements either, because the seated position magnifies the pressure on the lumbar area.

Well, yesterday, I discovered something that allowed me to perform my Shoulder Press Workout with ZERO PAIN whatsoever during the movement.

I’ve never seen this variation done before, so I am naming it the Leaning Press.

The Leaning Press

Check out the video below to see how the Leaning Press is done.

This variation allowed me to train without any of the pain I have been dealing with the last couple of weeks. The leaning position allowed me to completely avoid any of the compression force on the spine that the seated position is known to cause, and I still got the taste of the Overhead Lifting that I love so much.

Naturally, I’d much rather be pressing a loaded barbell or Strongman Log overhead, but my back needed the rest, and this little variation gave me what it needed.

If your back hurts, see what your doctor says about giving this a try.

More Overhead Press Articles

If you like Overhead Lifting as much as me, then be sure to check out some of my other articles on Overhead Lifting:

Going for a Max in the Overhead Press
My Approach to Upper Body Training
Principles for Improving the Overhead Press

All the best in your training.


Want to Bring Up Your Log?
Check out Intro to Strongman Training:

Beginner Odd Object Training

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Odd Object Training – Intense & Fun Strength Training

Odd Object training, lifting things like atlas stones, kegs, and sandbags is a very rewarding form of training. You get strong in ways that barbells and dumbbells can not provide and it is fun to pick things up that 99% of the population will never do.

Recently, I wanted to start working some odd object training into the routine. Optimally, I would have wanted to lift some atlas stones. But since it had been over a year since I last trained them, I wanted to work Odd Object Training back in slowly.

Instead of jumping right into stones, I opted to do some sandbag lifting and keg lifting. Both of these implements are shaped very similar to stones, and allow you to get used to the body positions of stone lifting and to somewhat practice the stone lifting technique.

The day I did this was also my Overhead Pressing day so I still wanted to do some overhead work. Since I was working with 110-lb Sandbag and a 127-lb Keg, I was able to get plenty of overhead lifting volume in.

Sandbag Training

For the sandbag, I decided I would do full cleans and presses. This would allow my back to get accustomed once again to the round-back position of odd object training, without going as heavy as my lightest stone, 230-lbs.

To stay conservative, I started with just 3 repetitions in my first set, and then added 1 repetition each set. All the while, I was trying to move faster and faster with the clean and the press in order to get a bit of an increase cardiovascular demand.

In the video you will see that I put a Timer in, just to show how quickly or slowly I was moving through the repetitions. Since there was a clean to the shoulder on each repetition, much more muscle was involved than just performing one clean and going for repetitions afterwards.

Here’s the video so you can see how it went.

Keg Lifting

With the Keg I decided to move to just one clean and multiple presses during the set. The clean is much tougher with my Keg because it is only half full of scrap steel and it shifts around quite a bit. I didn’t want to push my luck on my wrist, so 1 clean per set was good enough.

I also tried to perform a Keg Snatch, lifting it from between the legs overhead in one movement. I didn’t quite get it but I did come close. I think next workout I will be able to perform the snatch.

Check out the video:

As you watch the videos, you will see that I definitely have gotten a bit rusty with my Odd Object training. When you don’t do it for a while, you forget the challenge of controlling these implements, especially during the flip-over/catching portion of the Keg and Sandbag clean. After a couple of sets, I was able to knock most of the rust off.

For those who are new to this kind of training, you will want to approach it somewhat how I did. Even after the ow volume of work that I did, I was still sore in the middle back the next day. This is most likely due to the fact that I have been using so many conventional training implements (barbells, dumbbells) that my back is not used to stabilizing against such a dynamic load.

But that is actually the whole idea with Odd Object Training. It makes your body work harder than with regular equipment, so it helps you develop even more as an athlete or strength enthusiast.

Naturally, when you first start out with Odd Object Training, you’ll want to start out light and gradually move up as you get used to the demands of the Odd Objects. A good starter weight for most gals is about 50-lbs and for guys, about 80-lbs. That kind of weight with these bulky implements with give you a good introduction.

If you are interested in learning more about Odd Object Training, make sure you sign up for my newsletter, because more information will be coming your way.

If you have any questions on Odd Object Training, be sure to leave them below.

All the best in your training.



Diesel Road Report: Juniata Workout

Monday, July 1st, 2013

A few weeks back, I attended the PA Strength and Conditioning Clinic at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA. A few weeks prior to that, I had written some of my good friends who attend the clinic each year and told them I was really looking forward to meeting up with them and hitting a good, solid, hard workout.

The reason I did this is because I wanted to just go there and relax and just blow off some steam by putting one another through the ringers, challenging one another in a nice, conventional workout in the gym.

So, Jerry Shreck, from Bucknell and Bobby Fisk, from Hobart, all met up and just threw down for about 2 solid hours of lifting with no real plan except to leave everything we had in the weight room.

Here is what we ended up doing.

Part I: Overhead Lifting

This portion starts out with some One Arm Snatch and One Arm Clean Clean and Press using Dumbbells. I was really looking forward to seeing how much I could do in these lifts, for two reasons.

First, the heaviest dumbbells I have in my gym is 110-lbs, and I seemed to remember Juniata’s going up to 150. Unfortunately, I remembered wrong, because they only went up to 120’s.

Second, there had been a post on the Gripboard talking about the heaviest One Arm Press people could do with no leg drive and starting with the dumbbell in contact with the shoulder. In training, I had gotten 100-lbs but kept missing with 110, so I was looking forward to seeing what I could.

The Snatches just happened because I figured I might as well start out with at least one fast lift, plus the Snatch takes nothing out of me for the Clean and Press so it ended up making sense.

For the Snatch, I ended up getting 120-lbs right handed. I was happy with this, but I know I could have gotten more, especially after Jerry cued me to keep my back straighter – everything felt more efficient after that and was much easier.

For the Clean and Press, I knocked out 110 without any leg drive whatsoever. On 115, I came very close, but I lost my balance a bit and had to move my feet to keep from falling over, so I can’t count it.

From there, we did some Pressing Ladders, where I started with 85 X 1, then 80 X 2, 75 X 3, 70 X 4, and then tried to reverse it back to 85X 1. I came close but didn’t quite finish it off.

Part II: Rows and Chest Press

Sadly, this is the part of the workout that really messed Jerry up. He had a pretty significant injury to his left forearm that kept him from hitting the numbers he really wanted to so, I know that he will be going after some payback sometime soon. Maybe we will have to meet up at Bucknell sometime for another encounter.

This video starts of with some Low Cable Rows. We started out with the whole stack, level 20, and we performed 5 reps there, then we would drop one plate off the pin and hit 5 more reps. This is where Bobby jumped in with us and proved that they don’t mess around in their training at Hobart.

I really liked this exchange. It was awesome having a pin-selected stack to work with. At my place, my Low Cable Row machine has an actual loading pin, so if I want to drop weight from it during a set, I have to stand up, walk 4 feet to unload, and then get back in position. Being able to just sit forward and have someone else adjust the pins was awesome.

Next, we hit the Chest Press Machine. We started with the stack again, and then dropped two plate positions, hitting 5 reps at each stop. This machine proved to be fairly surprising in the area of difficulty. It had been a long time since Jerry and I had worked on a machine like this, and the bottom of the movement as well as the lockout were much more difficult than the regular Barbell Bench Press.

With this in mind, it could be a good idea to work some machines in every so often in order to shock the muscles a bit and keep them guessing. As I told Bobby, “It’s a different hard. It can still make you better.”

Part III: Curls, Upright Rows, Side Laterals, Posterior Flyes

As I was walking around the gym warming up, I saw this freakin’ awesome angled handle barbell. I know Coach Smith from Juniata has all of the best equipment for his football players, so it didn’t surprise me that he’d have a barbell like this. Bobby and I jumped on it right away, throwing a 10-kilo plate on there and performing a few sets of curls. It felt awesome and there was absolutely no stress on the wrists or forearms whatsoever curling with this barbell.

After that we set up a combination for the shoulders. Lift A was Upright Rows, which I haven’t done in years, but have added in a bit recently using only the EZ Curl Bar. I have actually coached people NOT to do Upright Rows in the past, but with the form I use in the video, I think they are much safer than the regular form used with barbells. We combined that with a superset of Side Laterals and Posterior Flyes performed with Chains.

This was an AWESOME burner for the shoulders. What’s great about the chains is they are very light at the bottom and then KILLER HARD at the top. With the lighter resistance at the bottom, they do not strain the rotator cuffs like dumbbells would, and the difficulty only ramps up when you get out of the range where the rotator cuffs are doing all of the work.

I LOVED this workout. The only things that could could have made it any better were if my two regular lifting buddies, Mark Gannon and JT Straussner, would have been there, and if we would have thrown in some Grip at the end. However, I took a 3-week hiatus from Grip Training after nationals, so the only grip I did during that time was holding the weights in my regular Strength and Mass Building lifts.

I hope you enjoy the videos. If you have any questions about the training, please feel free to leave a comment below, or right on the YouTube video pages.

Also, make sure to subscribe to my channel by clicking here.

All the best in your training.


P.S. Be sure to keep an eye out for more updates from Juniata. I still have a few more training and learning tidbits I will be sharing from my time there. Stay Tuned.

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Bigger Barbell Pressing – Always Be Learning

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

I Love Overhead Lifting

Let me just say that you should ALWAYS be learning, or at least OPEN to learning if you are serious about your strength training.

The day you stop learning is the day you stop improving, as far as I am concerned.

I have never had a problem with taking opportunities to learn. I know that I don’t know everything and I go to seminars and clinics all the time.

If you think you know everything, then you probably aren’t putting up much weight in the gym.

However, sometimes it opportunities to learn and improve yourself come up unexpectedly.

I was recently talking with a good friend of mine, Paul Knight. He has one of the best crushing grips in the world and he told me some of the stuff he does in his training.

He incorporates a great deal of volume into his workouts. Volume that is higher than anyone I have ever heard of before, so I ended up applying it to my overhead work for a couple of weeks.

I don’t want to bore you with too much detail, so instead, I will just show you videos.

Here is last week, where I tried 225 for a double.

Miss: 225 X 2, Barbell Press from Rack

Now, I probably could have bent my lumbar spine way back and gotten the second rep, like I used to. But, I don’t force reps like that anymore. It just isn’t something I want to do anymore.

Oh, and by the way, it was less than 40 degrees that day when I was training, thus the ski-mask. The style police from YouTube tried docking me points because of it – Whoopty Doo. What’s next? Chicken leg jokes?

This week, I tried it again and the result was much different.

BAM: 225 X 2, Barbell Press from Rack

Diesels, the only thing I can point to here in regards to this improvement is the higher volume I have been doing. For the last few years, I have rarely gone beyond 3 reps in a set of Barbell Press. Dumbbell Press, yes, but I have never made a habit of it.

All I can say is the last few weeks I have felt stronger than I have in years. I am sure it is a combination of being healthy and finding some lifting strategies that my body is responding to.

It just goes to show you that you don’t always have to work near your 1-Rep Maximum. There is room for lower loads and higher reps. This is something that historically i would have had tunnel vision about and not considered.

Here is a later work-set from the same session where I got 225 for 2. I was doing 175 for sets of 7 up until this point. This was the last set and I decided I would go for a set of 10 and nearly got it.

175 for 10…Almost

Like I said, I have been feeling like a freaking Diesel-Powered Monster the last few weeks. All the big lifts I have been doing feel great and I am very thankful to be seeing these results.

Speaking of being thankful, I was watching a video by one of my idols growing up, Ultimate Warriror, and he said something that really resonated with me about how he encourages people to be thankful for the gains you get.

I know this is a long video…what you want to listen to is the section from 5:27 to 6:00, especially. Check this out:

Seriously, make sure you listen to what he says, DIESELS. He’s not doing an over-the-top wrestling promo. He’s speaking as somebody who has been training his ass off since he was a teenager and is now in his 50’s. This is golden insight from someone who has been tangling with the iron for decades.

As I have mentioned to the people on my Email Newsletter, I am throwing around the idea of putting together some sort of training program or course on Overhead Lifting. If this is something that you’d be interested in, make sure you are signed up for email updates as things progress, and don’t be afraid to leave a comment below.

All the best in your training.